I am probably not your typical homeschooler. When I first began 18 years ago I was way more structured and rigid. I even got my daughter a little school desk for her to sit in. (And apparently, according to my husband, I made her call me Mrs. Walden. Neither she nor I remember that, thank goodness!) The desk lasted all of about two days. Her little brother was about 20 months old at the time and into everything. Staying in one spot for any length of time was a chore.

In my first couple of years I bought some sort of curriculum with a guide I could check off as done each day. I was not happy when I didn’t get to check something off. Security meant following someone else’s ideas of school because, surely, they must know more than me. They had  to know just the right books to read, the correct phonics program to use and the best math flash cards to buy because I had no clue what I was doing.

Back when we started in 1994 I didn’t know anything about learning styles, character development, curriculum choices or support systems. I just knew I wanted to spend time  with my kids and teach them to read and write and do math. I wanted them to love learning as much as I did and be excited about books and games and family time. I wanted to show them God and raise them up to be godly men and women. All I knew was I wanted to have “good” teenagers and not dread those years. The only way I knew how to do that was through the time we spent living life together.

I had no idea when I started homeschooling that we would adopt three more children in 2000 who would eventually blow everything I believed about homeschooling methods out the window! I didn’t know my bio kids were neuro-typical and fairly easy to homeschool. Nothing like the emotional, mental and physical needs of my adopted kiddos. I was in for a roller coaster ride!

I do believe that the foundation that was laid in those first few years of homeschooling sustained me in the years of turmoil, frustrations and fears. Staying home to teach my kids allowed us to blend into a new family, warts and all. Struggles and battles lay ahead but we have persevered on our homeschooling journey through it all.

Homeschooling special needs children, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, is both a joy and a challenge. We are entering year 19 of homeschooling and in many ways I feel like a dinosaur. However, I don’t have all the answers or pretend to know it all. Each year is different, filled with life circumstances and struggles unique to that time. I cling to those same desires from my early years. I want my children to desire God, love learning and live life to the fullest, equipped with a foundation of knowledge and relationships that will endure.

With all that said, I am probably not a typical homeschooler. I no longer plan out every day, week and month. I actually don’t really “plan” at all in the sense that I don’t have a daily goal that has to be met. I can’t live with the feeling that I didn’t accomplish enough or get enough done. I had to experience the death of perfection to realize God wants me to teach my children how to live, not just do worksheets or sit at a table and check off a list.

In the very difficult years of raising children of trauma, taking care of my elderly parents and homeschooling through it all, the transparent truth was there were many days that my only “goal” for the day was to get dinner on the table. That was it. If I cooked a homemade meal for us all to share together I had done enough for that day. Does that mean school didn’t happen? No. Does that mean the day might have involved visiting my parents, doing their laundry, paying their bills, managing 60 years of their possessions together and talking to numerous doctors? Yes. It may have also involved hours of therapy dealing with past and present wounds and emotional traumas and abuse for my adopted children. Did I also take children to jobs and piano lessons and church activities? Yes. Did we do math? Yes. Did we read together? Always. Did we do devotions? Absolutely. Was every day the same? Never. Did I do every single one of these things every day? No.